When it comes to the global economy of food service, universities are one of the largest proponents. Students have become increasingly accustomed to relying on college dining, making their meal experience a pivotal factor to their dining hall frequency and overall college experience.

However, with the growing rates in out-of-state and international admissions at universities, we’ve seen a decline in student satisfaction with their on-campus dining. This comes from a combination of the limited food options being served and a generation of students with sophisticated eating preferences. A growing number of studies have established that in light of the improving health and quality standards of college dining, the majority of college students have expressed dissatisfaction with their meal options.

As a result of the increasing dining standards of students, college administrators have been forced to expand their on-campus options to more expensive lengths. The first step goes to observing the student's time and extending dining hall operating hours to cater all schedules. However, while it does meet the student’s convenience, it requires a larger payroll for dining staff.

The quality of the dining is another growing standard that has forced colleges to adapt. This has been carried out through providing high-end meals and quality eating experiences. Lighting, flooring, seating, and decoration are all architectural factors considered to curate a quality food hall. This in turn requires constant remodel, caretaking, and adapting to student’s standards.

In order to cater to the growing needs of students, colleges must encourage feedback and then provide upon it. Constantly tracking attendance and food preference data is also necessary. The analysis of the two forms of information will yield accurate results that colleges can use to improve their dining.

When you consider the several factors that contribute towards the satisfaction of students' dining experience, it provides a tremendous challenge that requires constant upkeep. Even when adjustments are made to satisfy dietary interests, at the end of the day there is still a major deficit in dining hall frequency.

In a study published by Emerald Insight, 685 students in the University of South Florida were surveyed on their satisfaction with student dining. The data was collected to determine how often students utilize the dining options incorporated in their tuition. It was found that only 26% of students used all three meal swipes provided each day, and 21% of students use their meal swipes more than five days a week.

The combined cost of improving students’ dining experience while combating the overwhelming majority of students who do not fully rely on their meal plans indicate that the college meal plan is in need of a significant revamp. The reputation and earnings of colleges lay in direct threat to these changes. Institutions will need notable improvements if they want to see an increase in dining satisfaction and revenue.